With absolute justification – D DAY – June 6, 1944: the landing of Allied Troops on the beaches of Normandy was the most storied military operation of World War II.
Yesterday was the 60th anniversary of the invasion.
For the Nazis and their Axis, it meant the beginning of the end of their tyranny.
For all of Europe and the rest of the civilized world, it meant a whole new way of living and opportunities never before dreamt possible.
But it didn’t start on June 6, 1944 on the shores of Normandy; where American, British, Canadian and other troops bravely stormed the beaches.
The liberation of Europe and the defeat of Nazism really began on July 10, 1943, almost one full year prior to D DAY in the invasion at Sicily.
Americans, Brits, Sikhs, Indians, Punjabis, Mahrattas, Rajputs, Gurkhas, Poles, New Zealanders including Maoris, Frenchmen, the Jewish Brigade, Canadians and others hit the shores of Italy; culminating in one of the fiercest and most remarkable battles (lasting 6 months) of the Second World War fought at Monte Cassino.
My dad was wounded and decorated for his contribution at the front lines of this assault on the Italian mountain Fortress.
With the invasion of Italy, the Allied Troops gave the Nazis and their Axis an awful lot more to think about than just the Eastern Front, where the Russians, Yugoslavians and their allies were cutting the German troops to pieces.
The British, American, and Jewish Brigades also did their part in driving the Nazis out of North Africa and the Middle East, cutting them off from their fuel supply.
And before all of that, British Field Marshal Bernard Montgomery ordered thousands of Canadians into a meat grinder in the Dieppe Raid (August 19, 1942) two years before D Day, also on the beaches of France across the English channel.
Dieppe was supposed to be the precursor to D Day, but turned out instead to represent the most idiotic military strategy bordering on being criminal.
Of the approximately 6,000 attacking soldiers, about 5,000 were Canadian. My dad was one of them, but he never made it to Dieppe, because, as he was waiting for his ship to set sail for battle; the wounded, dead and dying were being brought back to England.
The raid (invasion) ended just hours after it began.
At the end of the day, of the nearly 5,000 Canadians who hit the beaches at Dieppe, only 2,200 or so returned to England. Many of whom were wounded.
There were more than 3,300 Canadian casualties, including more than 1,900 Canadian soldiers taken prisoner. And 907 Canadians who lost their lives.
British Field Marshal Bernard Montgomery was a fool, a phony, and personally responsible for the wounding, maiming, and murder of thousands of Canadian soldiers who never made it beyond the beaches under the withering fire of crack German troops, who picked off the Canadians as if it was a turkey-shoot.
Montgomery and the British High Command who oversaw Canadian troops went on to later say that Dieppe was the stepping stone to D Day.
It was nothing of the sort. It was a blunder using “expendable” Canadian troops. Brave young men all. Nonetheless; this too was a monumental effort by young men who were sacrificed in the war for freedom from despotism.
So, when I watched the D Day Memorial Ceremonies on television yesterday, and saw the old men, who just 60 years ago rushed the Nazi juggernaut at Normandy with reckless abandon so I would have the right and freedom to be sitting in my comfortable home writing my thoughts, I have to also remember the other brave of the bravest who did their share in all the battles before and after D Day.
There is no question in my mind that D Day was not a one-of occurrence. History is replete with many great battles that changed the world. And in 60 years from now, there will be people remembering great battles that have not yet been fought.
My hope, is that WHEN the time comes for us to measure-up against those who’ve sacrificed so much in the defense of freedom, that we will be as good as them.
It is critical for us to remember, that there is a cost we have to pay for liberty, because at some time in the future, perhaps sooner rather than later, it will be time for us to do it again.
Thank you to all the brave and sacrificing men and women throughout history who have made it possible for someone like me to be sitting here with the right to be speaking my mind.
Thank you to the vets of Dieppe, Monte Cassino, D Day, VE Day, VJ Day, the Korean War, Vietnam, the Cold War, the current War in Iraq and all the warriors who’ve fought in the shadows so we may be free.
On Father’s Day, June 20, 2004, as is my custom, I will visit the Grave Site of my father (who died a decade ago), and replace a small Canadian flag in front of his headstone with a fresh Maple Leaf, and the Poppy I wore in his memory on November 11 of this year. The Poppy that already adorns the current flag.
Like millions of others who we should always remember, my dad fought, suffered, and bled under the flag of freedom, so I and others could be free.
I will never forget what they’ve done. And I will never stop saying THANK YOU.